I wasn’t allowed to play video games as a kid. My dad thought they rotted the brain, so they were gently forbidden* from my house. As result, when I’d go to friends’ houses and they’d fire up their systems, I was a mere spectator. No one wants to play with the guy who can’t play at all.
(* They weren’t strictly forbidden, but they were also never purchased. At age less-than-13, there was no way I was putting together enough scratch to buy an N64 or PS2 on my own. This may have changed after my Bar Mitzvah, but by that point I had resigned myself to a life without video games, a conclusion I’m now fine with.)
At 13, I most often watched video games at my friend Jason’s house; or, more specifically, in his younger brother Clay’s room.**
(** out of some inexplicable force of vehemence, tantrum, and sheer good luck, Clay got to have the PlayStation hooked up in his room. The downside of this was that his brother’s friends were constantly waking him up and sitting on his bed.)
To us, there was only one video game that mattered: NCAA Football ’98. And in that realm, Clay had an unstoppable force at his disposal. That force’s name was Amos Zereoue.***
(*** I promise this will be about basketball soon.)
One after another my friends would line up against Clay, and one after another they would be coldly, mercilessly Zereoue’d. They tried everything. Blitzing, preventing, zoning, manning. They’d even alter their pre-snap alignment to swarm that left flat with all 11 men they had. Nothing worked. The play always went for 7. A glitch in the system. An accident of skill and luck. A marvel of indomitable might.
That’s Caremlo Anthony’s transition 3.
On Sunday, I absently kept the Knicks-Clippers game on in the background as I undertook the unfortunately monstrous task of cleaning my apartment. Watching the game seemed like a viewing exercise in déjà vu. Every time I looked up, the Knicks were pushing their secondary break, invariably ending with Ray Felton flipping an underhanded pass back to a trailing Carmelo, who would nonchalantly catch, rise up, and toss in a 3 from the wing. How his team lost by 14 points, I would love to know. From what I could gather, it looked like he hit one million 3s. (In reality, he hit 5.)
The whole episode took me back to the Summer Olympics. More precisely, to the moment when, for 2 hours, Nigeria’s most pressing national concern was how to get a hand in Carmelo’s face.
In that game, one trip down the floor after the next, Carmelo trailed the ball, followed its scent, found it at the three point line, then hung a 3 on his feeble foes. 10 of them in 14 minutes. Just silly. He was Amos Zereoue, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
(**** Samples of our other arguments: Is Bad Boys an overrated movie? I say yes. Do I need to eventually watch Lost? I say no.)
Carmelo is what he is, even if he is improving. 10 years into the league, he’s still pretty bearish on the merits of passing (he ranks 61st out of 71 small forwards in assist rate, between Omri Casspi and Moe Harkless), and only moderately more interested in rebounding (tied for 32nd among SFs in Rebound Rate, underwhelming considering his physical gifts) and defense (29th among SFs averaging 10+ MPG in Defensive Plays Rate).
But, when a point guard is racing a rebound up the court, and a scattered transition defense is retreating on its heels, there is nothing that the Association has to offer that is more deadly or automatic than Carmelo stalking a 3 ball on the wing. And there’s something special to be said for that.